Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Existentialism and Christianity

This past semester I took a course on Existentialists Philosophy. I began the course with a complete disrespect for the existential philosophers. This is do to two facts. The fact that I am a Christian and the fact that I have taken most of my philosophical training in the analytic philosophical tradition. Now that I am done with all the philosophy courses for my degree, I will have to say that the existential philosophy course was, perhaps, the most unique. Most of the philosophy professors that I have had treat existentialism as a kind of pseudo-philosophy. I think that their criticisms are not that far off. Indeed I am not, nor will I ever be, a supporter of existentialism. I do find some aspects of that school of philosophy illuminating. One aspect that I find illuminating is the idea that subjectivity has a role in the way that we see the world. Existentialism comes genealogically from phenomenology. What we end up seeing and believing, to a large measure, is determined by our presuppositions. This presuppositional context helps determine the way we perceive things.

The christian should not see the fact of our subjectivity a problem. This is because the regenerated man's subjectivity is correlated with Gods divine subjectivity. Gods divine subjectivity is also Gods objectivity. Thus, we can know the world, as it truly is, when we have become regenerated after the likeness of Christ. We begin to interpret reality as God interprets reality. God's interpretation is always right. Therefore, unless one trust in Christ and receives by the Holy Spirit a new mind, one's epistemology is always at odds with one's ontology. We must seek the ontology, that of the scriptures, that can correlate with our epistemology. Only in the worldview that the bible gives us, does the correspondence theory of truth and the coherentist theory of truth meet in unity. Yes, as you may recognize, I am definitely a Van Tillian!

If you want a good introduction to the main existential philosophers, you ought to read Robert C. Solomon's Introducing The Existentialist: Imaginary interviews with Sartre, Heidegger and Camus. I read the book at the beginning of last semester. The book is split into three parts where Solomon does fake interviews with the three major existentialist. As he interviews he reviews some of the major aspects of each philosophers position. It is a fun way to learn about what these philosophers were all about.

Written by Stephen Stanford

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